642nd Engineer Company (Support)
20th Engineer Battalion
The 642nd Engineer Company had already been in Baghdad for three months when the 20th Engineers arrived in late 2006. They previously were part of the engineer task force led by the 62nd Engineer Battalion (also from Fort Hood), under the 4th Infantry Division. The company is normally stationed at Fort Drum and, though not a part of the unit, wears the patch of the 10th Mountain Division. The company contains mostly heavy horizontal construction equipment, such as dozers, scrapers, loaders, and graders.
Note: Most of the text of this article comes from issues of the 20th Engineer Battalion's newsletter, The Lumberjack Journal. The writer is the Company Commander.
From March, 2007:
Greetings to our friends and family back home, from the Soldiers, NCO's and Officers of the mighty DEUCE!
It's March in Baghdad, which means the rainy season is finally coming to an end, the weather is starting to warm up, and the DEUCE hit the half-way mark in our year-long deployment! Quite a benchmark, since half way done means half way home and we can, at least intellectually, start counting down as opposed to counting up. Six months is still a significant amount of time and we have a lot of missions to accomplish. We know it is hard on our loved ones back home, just as it is hard on us here. And yet, the Soldiers of the Deuce remain focused on the task at hand and continue to perform superbly. They are extremely busy and making considerable contributions to the Baghdad security effort. In fact, many of the construction projects being mentioned in the news are being constructed by the Deuce. When they are not out on missions, Soldiers are constantly battling complacency but the platoons are finding ways to break up the routine, with cook-outs, sports, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) events.
2nd Lt. Schumer, the new platoon leader for 3rd Platoon, and his platoon sergeant, SFC Leonard.
Though the operational tempo usually keeps at least one or two platoons constantly in rotation and off-the-FOB at any given time, we have had a couple of opportunities when the whole DEUCE family was back on base. While we had the majority of the company on FOB, we held an awards and promotion ceremony. The Lieutenant's formerly known as Cathcart and Sagraves are now both referred to as Captain. PFC Harrell was awarded his Purple Heart. And all the Privates have now achieved the status of Private First Class (PFC). While the list is long, each Soldier has done an outstanding job since arriving in country and is well-deserving of the new promotion.
Private First Class Harrell receiving his Purple Heart.
Recently, 1SG SanPedro, SFC Leonard, and I had the opportunity to see Chely Wright in concert during one of the MWR events. You'll notice the picture of First Sergeant and Chely cheesing it up for the camera. If you are not familiar with her work, she is a very patriotic country music artist who is well known for visiting the troops. Many of her relatives were and are in the military, including her brother who is a master sergeant in the Marines. She sings that song about a Marine sticker on the bumper of her SUV. It was a good concert and everyone seemed to have a good time. Except maybe SFC Leonard who is not much of a country music fan. Of course, it is hard to tell when SFC Leonard is excited, except when he is mad.
First Sergeant SanPedro and entertainer Chely Wright
In closing, I want to again thank all the supporters, family and friends of the DEUCE. Your support means more than you probably realize. I appreciate everything you do for the Soldiers in the 642nd. Their accomplishments are something they and you can be proud of. For all of you support, in all we do, we are truly grateful. Till next month, this is DEUCE 6, OUT!
From February, 2007:
Greetings from Iraq and Happy New Year to all back home! We hope all is well with the spouses, family and friends back at Ft. Drum, and we extend best wishes to those at Ft. Hood and Ft. Campbell who are away from their Soldiers this New Year.
The past month has been met with many different emotions amongst the Soldiers, NCOs and Officers in the Deuce. Even though we could not be with family for the holidays, the unit made the most of this time of sharing and reflection. The outpouring of support from home was amazing and deeply appreciated.
Many Soldiers were promoted, presented awards, reenlisted, or received coins from supported units throughout the month of January. These accomplishments reflect the continuing commitment to excellence by the members of the Deuce.
As usual, the unit has been making a huge impact in the Baghdad area. Whether it is 1st Platoon ensuring roads are passable,
2nd Platoon emplacing blocking positions, or 3rd Platoon clearing routes of IED hiding spots, the Deuce is greatly contributing
to the fight. Headquarters, the "brains" of the Deuce, is doing a fantastic job juggling the missions, ensuring coordination is
made and the platoons have everything they need to succeed. As always, Maintenance continues to amaze leaders in the unit,
as well as battalion, by performing the miracles they do in the motorpool and out on mission.
Soldiers from the 642nd Engineer Company check each other's body armor before leaving Camp Liberty to search for roadside bombs in west Baghdad, Iraq Friday, Jan. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
No matter what section your Soldier
works in, you should be proud of them for all of their accomplishments in ensuring the success of our company on and off
the battlefield, day-in and day-out.
Army Pfc. Theodore Robuck, 25, from Clayton, Okla., scans the rooftops of a west Baghdad, Iraq neighborhood as the 642nd Engineer Company clears debris that could conceal roadside bombs Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Additionally, the Deuce has received some "new blood" in the past month with the arrival of SSG Arnulfo Rodriguez and 2LT Ashley Craig. SSG Rodriguez has already settled into the role of 2nd Squad Leader in 1st Platoon, meshing well with the personalities of his fellow platoon members. 2LT Craig has been going through the motions of learning his new role as the platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, side-seating 1LT Cathcart on missions for the remainder of January. In the upcoming month the unit looks to receive additional junior officers who will be replacing platoon leaders heading to battalion to fill staff officer positions as newly promoted Captains. While we will miss the old platoon leaders, we look forward to welcoming the new Lieutenants; anxious to see what they have to offer the Deuce.
Despite all of the good things the New Year has brought the Deuce, we have also been
met with the unfortunate weight of mourning a fellow Soldier. On December 22, 2006, while
executing an excavation mission to recover human remains, SPC Joshua "Shep" Sheppard was
killed by enemy small arms fire on the battlefield. The loss of one of our own deeply affected
us all, and we sought comfort in one another in the following days and weeks. As always we
continue fighting every day by remembering "Shep" and keeping his family, back home in
Oklahoma, in our thoughts.
Specialist Joshua Sheppard
Notwithstanding these varying emotions, the Deuce continues moving forward, remaining strong, and maintaining a commitment to the mission at hand.
From January, 2007:
Three months down and only nine to go...if the rest of our time here passes as quickly as it has in this first quarter, we will be home before you know it. I con[at]tribute the fleeting days to the operational tempo (optempo), and the frequency and number of missions we have participated in since arriving.
Recently, however, the pace has slowed a bit with many units around the Baghdad area of operations leaving and being replaced by incoming divisions, brigades, battalions and companies.
In the past month we said goodbye to the division in charge of our operations in and around Baghdad, the 4th Infantry Division (Ivy Leaf), and welcomed the 1st Cavalry Division (First Team). We also said farewell to the 62nd Engineer Combat Battalion, under which we previously worked, and said hello to the 20th Engineer Battalion.
new people on-the-ground and in-charge, it creates a lull in the operation
flow while they organize, evaluate the situation on the ground,
and restructure their scope and priorities of work. Still, we've been
continuing on with our important engineering missions, and bridging
the gap between the departure of the 62nd and the arrival of the 20th.
A soldier of the 642d Engineers in a crater caused by an IED
As the largest construction unit in /around Baghdad, the
unique abilities of our battalion are in constant demand. Deuce Soldiers
recognize their important role in expanding the reach of our
forces and bringing the fight to the enemy. This often calls for operating
in dangerous areas. They have faced this danger in true U.S.
Army tradition, with courage and tenacity. It has been a team effort,
from the mechanic who ensures the equipment is mission capable to
the operator who spends long nights slinging barriers on the dark
Baghdad streets. I am constantly and continually impressed with
their professionalism and mission accomplishment.
Pvt. Daniel Wexler, 22, from St. Louis, Mo. listens to instructions, as the 642nd Engineer Company prepares to search for roadside bombs in west Baghdad, Iraq Friday, Jan. 26, 2006. (Photo: AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
For those at home the time is probably crawling by. Those who
support us have our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices they make and the
support they give their Soldier. Without their support, we could not accomplish
what we do day-in and day-out.